Jiah Khan’s suicide note.

R’s Mom shared this link, and I agree with the gist of the post, although I wish the tone was more sensitive to the young woman – who is also a victim of Patriarchy, that sees Getting and Staying Married as the only goal in women’s lives.

What are your thoughts on this one?
“…this is a 25-year old who … thinks her life is value-less without the continuing attention of some unemployed star-kid?! How the heck was she brought up? What kind of …. adult mind thinks that someone else’s attention is so important that her own life pales in comparison? … Who gave her these values where “death before losing in love” is a virtue?” 

Read Jiah Khan’s suicide note, Jiah’s letter to Suraj Pancholi

Let me share some bits from Jiah’s letter. This is why, I feel, Getting and Staying Married should not be seen as the biggest goal in a woman’s life.

“You may not have known this but you affected me deeply to a point where I lost myself in loving you.”

IHM: Glorifying such dependence leaves those ‘lost in love’ vulnerable to manipulation, control and abuse; OR it drives them to control those they feel they can’t live without.

“… I’ve never given so much of myself to someone or cared so much. You returned my love with cheating and lies.”

IHM: Shouldn’t lack of reciprocation, lies and cheating be seen as warning signs?

“It didn’t matter how many gifts I gave you or how beautiful I looked for you.”

IHM: Gifts and beauty can make a disinterested or manipulative man turn into a loving partner?

“…When I first met you I was driven, ambitious and disciplined. … I didn’t see any love or commitment from you. I just became increasingly scared that you would hurt me mentally or physically.”

IHM: There was violence, or fear of violence, but Jiah thought this relationship was worth taking her life for.

“Your life was about partying and women. Mine was you and my work.”

IHM: Generally the partner who likes to socialize (seen as frivolous) is seen as the culprit, and the one who likes to spend time ‘gainfully’ and alone with the partner the victim

But couldn’t it indicate incompatibility or disinterest, or both?

“…. I never told you but I received a message about you. About you cheating on me. I chose to ignore it, decided to trust you.”

IHM: Why is foundation-less trust glorified, and even romanticized?

“No other woman will give you as much as I did or love you as much as I did. I can write that in my blood.”

IHM: Based on Bollywood values: Love is giving and suffering silently, and watching the loved one happy.

And writing in blood is not unheard of, it is seen as a proof of ‘true love’.

Things were looking up for me here, but is it worth it when you constantly feel the pain of heartbreak when the person you love wants to abuse you or threatens o hit you or cheats on you telling other girls they are beautiful or throws you out of their house when you have no where to go and you’ve come to them out of love or when they lie to your face or they make you chase after them in their car. Or disrespects their family. You never even met my sister. I bought your sister presents.

IHM: So many reasons to end a relationship. And can reciprocation be ‘earned’ with trust and loving someone ‘loyally’?

Please note, this post does not blame Jiah Khan’s parents, Suraj Pancholi or Jiah Khan for her suicide, it is only an attempt to understand why so many Indian women commit suicide when disappointed in relationships/marriages.

Here are some more women who did not walk out of abusive relationships.

Some have died, some live unhappily, some still hope they will eventually reform the man, some have accepted misery as their destiny.

‘An email from a daughter whose mother endured everything because she did not want to ruin her daughters’ lives’

Are Happily Married Daughters a status symbol in India? (Update: Now this daughter refuses to end her marriage, she has cut all ties with her parents.)

Sixty. And nowhere to go.

“When wives become too possesive of her husbands and do not want the affection to be shared with their near and dear…”

‘Mommy’s secret: The monster in my house (an essay by a 4th grader)’

If someone dislocated your jaw…

“Her husband has told her she can leave if she wishes, she does not have a steady income of her own.”

When she says she no longer wishes to stay with him, why isn’t her word enough?

The father threw the baby on the ground and tried to strangle her with his legs: No case registered.

An email: “just for a few days of fights and torture in a month, how can I leave this life?”

When a daughter refuses to go back…

Perhaps, this video explains it better.

And a success story.

An email: “But my parents, fearing the society and their reputation begged him to take me back.”

 

Is rape the worst thing that can happen to an Indian woman?

Or is death worse than rape?

Until recently, many Indians thought a rape victim’s life was ruined (barbad ho gayee) and the only way out was to pressurize her to kill herself, or for her family members to murder her.

If the victim and her family dared to hope  to move on (without any hopes of the rapists being punished, because traditionally we punished rape victims not rapists) they had to make sure nobody learnt about the crime. (Obviously, this was extremely convenient  for sexual criminals)

The idea of punishing a rapist is a modern idea. Many Indians (specially rapists and misogynists) are still not able to understand/digest this.

But now that rape is being seen as a crime against a woman and not as a crime against Patriarchy (i.e. not as stealing of her honor or virginity) – would you still say that a rape is the worst thing that could happen to a woman?

Is it possible for an Indian rape victim (and the society) to see rape as a horrible, traumatic, brutal crime but not as something for the victim to be ashamed of, as an end of happiness, honor, life, opportunities and dignity for the victim?

As of now, it seems, we see it as worse than death for the victim, but still make excuses for the rapists.

Edited to ask: Would you say loss of sight or limb is worse than a rape?

Related Posts:

Here’s why I think the society should not obsess over a woman’s virginity.

An email. I’m 27 and my parents were happy that I finally found someone. But does a relationship have any meaning without trust?

I am sharing an anonymous email. What do you think would be the traditional advice here? And what would you suggest?

Hi!

I have a problem but thankfully I’m not married to him yet :) I don’t write, so may not be able to express it well.

We have been seeing each other for almost three years now and we have been in love before (not the pehla pehla pyaar type). My ex moved on to another girl and we have been sparingly in touch since. His ex got married and they are back to being best friends (like they were before falling in love). She moved to the US with her husband but calls him occasionally.

Problems started pretty early because I wasn’t really comfortable with her calling him. I showed my discomfort on many occasions but he always took her side and assured me that my fears were unfounded and I was just being jealous. We have had many fights, with the issue usually being her. But he never stopped talking to her.

Finally one day a few months back, I was staying back at his place with a couple of friends when she called around midnight. It was daytime for her but I wasn’t very comfortable. I told him very politely but clearly that she cannot call him at midnight. He had to make it clear that he was committed and his girl friend wasn’t feeling good about this. I do not know what they talk about on the phone and I never checked his mails. He assured me that he wont pick any more calls at night. I went onsite for three months and when I came back I checked his phone log and mail, still don’t know why. I saw that she had been calling him everyday at around the same time at night. And they had exchanged quite a number of mails, not romantic but not ‘friend’ type either. He had always told me that he was very busy with work, so we weren’t talking so much. But he had found time to talk to her, everyday. I confronted him. We had a lot of fights but he never accepted that he was cheating on me. I am disheartened by the fact that he was doing something behind my back, that I had told him not to. And he never found time to tell me.

Even if I try to forget the incident I am not being able to trust him anymore. Our families have already started talking so it wont be very easy for me to back out now. Plus I’m 27 and my parents were pretty happy that I finally found someone. On one side I do not know whether ‘she’ is worth breaking the relationship. But does a relationship have any meaning without trust? Now even if he says that he is busy in office, and he might really be, I am not being able to believe him. I’m out of India again and have no idea what he is doing there. I have also realized from his mails to her that he has been telling her everything about us. About all our fights. Am I just jealous and insecure or is there really something to worry about?

It would be a great help if someone who doesn’t know both of us could give me an opinion on what I could do. Thanks!

Regards,

Twenty seven and insecure

Twenty seven and Insecure says, “I do not know whether ‘she’ is worth breaking the relationship.” If this relationship does break, do you think it would be because of the man’s ex, the ‘she’?

“If one of the parties wants a divorce, it should be granted irrespective of who’s “fault” it is.”

Do the Indian laws meant to protect women’s rights actually ‘baby’ women? Do you think that women should not be able to stop a husband from divorcing them if he does not want to stay married to them? If one of the parties wants a divorce, it should be granted…?

Some points to consider.

1. Many Indian families marry their sons, with massive dowries. Either before, or soon after a child is born (specially if it is a girl child) they decide they want a new daughter in law with more dowry. This is common.

Why don’t women gladly divorce such men? Basically because Indian women are raised to see Getting Married and Staying Married as their ultimate goal in life.

They may have other reasons too.

A 28 year old woman’s daughter had some medical problems and developmental delays. She felt she was not going to be able to care for her without the father’s support. The father loved the child, but his mother felt the daughter in law was not respectful enough. The man seemed undecided, loved the child, but seemed to fear his mother too. Now if it was easy for the man to divorce her, his family would have ensured that does happen.

In many cases like this, women do not think they benefit from being divorced, and the husbands swing between loyalty to their birth  families and wanting to stay married.

In the past such people could get the son married again, no legal divorce was needed. (Who does it look like is being babied here?) This still happens, though it’s not common in middle class families.

I know of a driver whose parents forced him to marry a woman they really liked, but he left his village with a woman he liked and lives in Ghaziabad now. The legal wife takes care of the parents and has one child. She’s grateful to have a roof over her head, she has no idea that she can’t be driven out of her marital home until she signs the divorce papers.

In another case my maid from Hubli left her husband and came to live, close to her mother, in Pune when she found out that he already had a wife and a child. The husband came after some months, was furious and beat her infront of her family, (who supported him). They didn’t want her responsibility and the stigma of a separated daughter, although she was not dependent on them. No amount of convincing from many of her employers worked, she went. She doesn’t understand that her semi-forced unhappy marriage is not even legal. Are they social equals?

There are thousands of cases like this. The wives have no idea that they have any rights at all.

Why doesn’t this work as easily in middle class families anymore? What changed? The Indian middle class acknowledges that now a wife’s signature is needed for divorce before a second wife can be brought in.

Can this be seen as babying Indian women?

2. In many cases the son has been persuaded to marry the woman in the hope that she would change him into the kind of person his family wants him to be, one example, is Smartu and Sweety’s case. Taking away a woman’s right to have a say in divorce cases would be welcomed by such families. “She fails to change/improve him, divorce her, try another woman.

Question: Who is being babied here?

3. Parents also attempt to break ‘love marriages’. They often succeed, because many believe that in India a woman marries not a man but an entire family. (This applies only to women, men marry a woman (or more) not her  family.)

4. Sometimes married men want a legal divorce to marry another woman. They can’t do that until the first wife is divorced. All this is new to the  Indian society – in the past, even the middle class women did not have the power to stop a married man from marrying a second time.

5. Most Indian women, even today, are brought up to be dependent and devoted wives, quite  along the lines of Mr Responsible Father, and they are blamed and held responsible for not being able to save their marriages. Until these attitudes change, I wonder if divorce laws, where one party wanting divorce is enough for divorce to be granted, might take us back to the times when women had no control over getting married and being ‘sent back’ or being legally divorced?

What kind of laws could help women in such cases?

Laws that ensure that they can not be married and divorced without having a say in both. This is very difficult for Indian families and society to accept. Also laws that ensure they have child custody and means to raise the children (child support), and, sometimes, they should have a chance to try to ‘save their marriages’ if that is what they feel they need to do.

Financial independence is difficult to achieve so long as child care, house work, spouse’s career and elder care etc are seen as women’s jobs. Social stigma, family’s disapproval, risk of losing children’s custody (fathers are natural guardians) make it still tougher.

Can men and women stay unequal in every way, but have exact same (not equal) laws governing them?

Do divorce and marriage affect Indian men and women in the same way? How does one change how divorce impacts women?